Wednesday, February 17, 2010
What Now, Charismatics?
The so-called Charismatic Movement began in April of 1960 - 50 years ago. It was then that Episcopal priest, Father Dennis Bennett, told his Van Nuys, California congregation that he had received the fullness or "baptism" of the Holy Spirit and was now speaking in tongues. How could he have known that, before long, literally millions of others would share the same testimony? Taken together, the charismatic, neo-charismatic and classical Pentecostal movements represent an unprecedented spiritual avalanche that has picked up a very wide variety of personalities, sub-movements and influences as it has powered its way down the mountain of history.
The list of charismatic and neo-charismatic persons of influence includes: Oral Roberts, Jack Hayford, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Earl Paulk, Paul and Jan Crouch, Mike Bickle, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, John Wimber, Bob Mumford, Pat Boone, Derek Prince, Bill Johnson, Kathryn Kuhlman, Larry Christenson, Ralph Wilkerson, Michael Harper, David Watson, T.D. Jakes, David Wilkenson, Father Eusebius Stephanou, Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, Father Rick Thomas, Wayne Grudem, Mario Murillo, Paul Cain, David DuPlessis, J. Rodman Williams, Demos Shakarian, Todd Bently, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Ted Haggard, C. Peter Wagner, Lonnie Frisbee, and Kevin Ranaghan -- among many, many others.
Fifty years hence, a number of those who qualify to be on the list of charismatic influences have either passed away, fallen away, or watched their impact dim. I've even started to see the term "post-charismatic" get thrown around -- and perhaps that is not unreasonable, at least in the Western World. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, leaders and movements are still much stronger outside Europe and the U.S. So, one wonders what is next. It seems to me that, after fighting so hard to win a place of acceptance at the evangelical table, the charismatics and neo-charismatics (including so-called "Third Wave" movements) are at a crossroads. Do they bet the farm on the edgier and more controversial personalities, sub-movements and spiritual distinctions of their movement? Or, do they dial back and find new alignments with other evangelicals (excluding, for a moment, the much smaller contingencies of Roman Catholic and Orthodox charismatics)?
Today's newer and smaller movements such as the new Reformed, "Emergent" and Simple Church tribes have their charismatics, but these hybrid associations feel more like the backwash between waves more than the waves themselves.
The fifty years that followed Father Bennett's infamous announcement have been powerful, interesting, puzzling, disconcerting, inspiring, confounding, disappointing and thrilling on both a local and global level. But influential new, younger leaders are not exactly waiting in the wings as the charismatics and neo-charismatics wind up Act Three of their show. What next? An encore? A falling curtain? Or, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, "something completely different"?